a glossary of favorite lilacs

I AM HALFWAY THROUGH a long season of lilac blooms that started before the first of May this year and looks to have another 10 days to go, weather depending. Meet the gang (wish I had scratch-and-sniff technology here for you).

  1. Denise "Garden Goddess" says:

    In re to the “Tinkerbell” lilac, I’ve had quite remarkable results with that one…have had it in a large pot (my “garden” is alas a pitiful (10’x15′?) slab of concrete…north-facing no less… that I’ve packed up with pots large and small). Anyway, though the flower color is a little on the anemic side, a rather washed out pink, that little Mama puts out a crop of fragrant flowers every year that is really quite remarkable…it is rather short in stature but it’s easily 6′ wide and every single branch tip has a bud on it and all of this in about a 17″ pot with probably no more than 3 hours of sun…can’t wait to move it to my “real house” one day!! Love this site by the way!!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Denise. Glad to have more info on ‘Tinkerbell’ lilac, thank you. Sounds like it is a real “do-er” as they say. Sounds like it will be happy when you *both* move to that sunnier bigger spot someday (as I assume it will be going along?). :) See you soon again.

  2. Tea says:

    Thanks so much for this. I’ve been trying to figure out what type of lilac my favorite neighborhood bush is so I could plant one myself, now I know–Sensation. Wonderful.

    I’m also having fun following you on Twitter (@tea_austen). I love how your comments throughout the day remind me to think about plants and trees (and frogs!) even while I am chained to the computer, and to get out there as much as I can. Thanks for that.

    Also, you guys are really making me wish I had a sister!

    Oh well, I can enjoy watching my nieces become good sisters to each other (they’re coming over tomorrow to play–might have to get them out in the garden as well!)

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Tea, and thank you for your encouragement. Yes, ‘Sensation’ is quite unusual. Good choice. I will go look for you on Twitter now, as will the @sisters…and hope to see you both places again soon.

  3. Dawn says:

    So I have this lilac that I planted in my garden when I moved in 6 years ago. It was a tiny stick when it was gifted to me. Because it was a gift from someone else’s garden, I have no idea of what variety I have. It has grown considerably (it’s probably six feet tall), but has never bloomed. I went for a run this morning and saw tons of lilacs about to bloom in Brooklyn and wanted to cry. Anyone have any ideas of how I can get this thing to bloom?

  4. Denise "Garden Goddess" says:

    Funny, I have the same problem with a “Grandma” lilac…my pet name for good old common S. vulgaris… that my cousin gave me….she dug up a sucker and I’ve had it for about six years and still no blooms…I’ve got a ‘Sensation’ right next to it that’s little more than a stick and it got its first bloom this year…I have this vague half-formed memory of reading something about certain types of cuttings of something (I warned you it was vague) not ever blooming…maybe akin to the suckers on fruit trees and tomatoes never bearing fruit??

  5. chickeewi says:

    I stumbled across this site while doing a google search on “how to find out what kind of lilac is in my yard”. Five years ago I planted two lilac bushes that I bought at a general garden store. They are beautiful. I did not save the tags, and now I cannot identify them. In the spring, the leaves turn bright yellow, then green. Once green, the purple lilacs start to bloom. Can anyone help me? I live in wisconsin

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Chickeewi. Do you want to upload a photo to the forums here at https://awaytogarden.com/forum ? Might still be hard to tell as there are so many purple lilacs. The other ways to tell include bloom time (early among lilacs or later than some or int he middle of the lilac season?) and height of the plant and size of the flowerheads.

  6. chickeewi says:

    the leaves are already past the yellow stage, and now they are mostly green. the lilacs have not started to bloom, but I will try to take a picture,
    Thank you for responding so quickly.

    1. margaret says:

      @Chickeewi: I assume you went to https://awaytogarden.com/forum and that you are registered (you became a member) and then logged in as that member name/password? Usually the only other reason photos cannot be uploaded is if they are *too large* — a smallish to medium jpg is plenty. A big file won’t work. If you still have trouble, email me at awaytogarden @ gmail dot com. Thank you.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Paulette. I don’t think you will find a lilac that’s happy in Florida, no, but if you do a search for heat-tolerant lilacs that will handle Zones 8 and perhaps 9. I don’t know where you are (South Florida? That would be a stretch for any lilac). But generally speaking, no, they prefer not to be exposed to such heat. Probably best to accept that rather than suffer along with a suffering lilac.

  7. Dolores Dean says:

    Hi I value the information I receive from your site.

    Wondering, in your opinion, what are the most fragrant lilacs? I am in northeastern Dutchess County, New York.

    Thanks for your time, Dolores

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Dolores. I remember an article from Fine Gardening about this that you may wish to read. I have seen so many lists of which are most fragrant, I really do not know, but I will have to do some homework. I’d trust the famed Arnold Arboretum outside Boston and their PDF on the subject can be found from the link on this page (click “Woudl A Lilac by Any Other Name Smell As Sweet” halfway down the page and open the PDF with your Preview program or other PDF viewer).

  8. Debra says:

    I’m so sad to hear that my lilac may not grow in the Mesa AZ area. I bought it as a stick and put it in a pot. It grew and bloomed and I fell in love with it. When I bought my house I was able to plant it in the ground and it’s beautiful! Now I may be moving to Casa Grande AZ and this lilac has always moved with me. I would be devastated if I uproted it only never to have it bloom again. I’m open to any suggestions and will go to any lengths to make this work. Would potting it again and keeping it in the house for a certain amount of time work? I’d appreciate everyone’s ideas! Thanks

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Debra. I don’t know how you can simulate the “chill period” (meaning, winter) that the plant wants. The lilacs from Descanco Gardens in California; read about them here are among the most heat tolerant; I have also read that Syringa persica, the Persian lilac, tolerates warmer zones, but I am not sure that includes yours in Mesa. I’d start my investigations around those two tips. I would not try to grow the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, in AZ. Wish I had a surefire solution!

  9. Susie says:

    I live in North Texas. Should I plant my persian lilsac on the east side or north side of my house to protect it from the hot Texas summer sun?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Susie. The Persian lilac is the most heat-tolerant, but still not really happy hotter than Zone 7ish. Your email just got me reading up on it again, from this Texas-Austin newsletter and elsewhere. It needs sun to bloom, but in the heat of summer won’t tolerate baking. Tricky. East or north are your only choices; how dark is the north side?

  10. Peterpepper says:

    A “Miss Kim” thrived in a hot corner, outgrowing its space. Against advice, we dug it out and popped it into a shadier hole elsewhere with same exposure. That was two+ years ago, and no blossoms have been seen at all. Is there hope for our Kim?

    1. Margaret says:

      @Peterpepper: Shade isn’t a favorite of most flowering trees and shrubs. I’d expect it might sulk the year after transplant and not worry, but if it’s more than two years already, sounds like the wrong spot (unless you pruned off the flower bus with a late or very early pruning, or fed it lots of Nitrogen?). Sounds like it wants more light.

  11. Craig Hibben says:

    I have pruned back overgrown Miss Kim lilacs rather severely after flowering, and they came back nicely and resumed flowering. Keep in full to partial sun…lilacs need sun exposure to flower well.

  12. Anita says:

    Hi Margaret I have enjoyed your website for a few yrs and have been on today. I know this is not the time to prune Lilacs but.. we have lived on our 40A farm for about 35yrs and I planted a Lilac bush when we first moved in. I have never pruned it and now it is huge. If we cut it way back after it blooms this spring do you think we will kill it?? I also have a tree that sprouted growing out of the middle of it. It also needs to go I think I am in need of some help ! Thanks for any you can give me.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Anita: My basic ideas on how to prune lilacs are summed up if you scroll down this pruning FAQ page, and then you can click off to the other green links in it.

      You won’t kill it by rejuvenating it, but the usual wisdom is to do that over three years — cutting out one-third of the oldest (thickest) stems each year to gradually allow new (thinner, shorter) wood to repopulate the area. One other issue is whether it’s growing “on its own roots” or grafted onto a sturdier lilac rootstock. Cutting the whole thing to the ground all at once can also sometimes allow the rootstock to overcome the desired parts of the plant.

      As for that tree…oh, dear. Needs to go at once (well, not if it’s snowing, but you know what I mean). It may keep resprouting, too, so see if you can dig it out as well, or be prepared to cut it down to the base again and again till you kill it.

  13. tigress says:


    what a joy that you posted this! i have decided to plant some lilacs this year and am just setting off to learn about them. so thank you!

  14. Diane says:

    Just ordered four lilacs. The selection here in Italy wasn’t vast, but I got a Michel Buchner, Charles Joly, Mme. Lemoine and a Sensation. Can’t wait to get them in and have them bloom! I love lilac bouquets come spring!

  15. jeanne douglas says:

    I noticed some dead flowers on my lilac bush ..can I cut them or leave them alone being it is already November I live inSouth Jersey

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Jeanne. You can always deadhead — just snip or pick off dried-up flowerheads — if you can do so without cutting off anything else. (In other words, no real pruning now of twigs.)

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